Blame it on George Clooney. Ever since the actor launched Casamigos in 2013, the thirst for launching and sipping premium tequila has been unquenchable.
Everyone from Kendall Jenner (818) to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (Teremana), Bryan Cranston (Dos Hombres), Rita Ora (Próspero), Nick Jonas (Villa One), LeBron James (Lobos 1707), Pierce Brosnan (Don Ramon) and, most recently, Mario Lopez and Oscar de la Hoya (Casa Mexico) have joined the agave-based spirits business.
According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, global tequila volume sales had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3% between 2014 and 2019. In the US, the Distilled Spirits Council says tequila sales have grown about six 6% every year since 2002 reaching over $4 billion in 2020, with the fastest growth occurring in the super premium category.
Rita Ora’s Próspero Tequila leads the premium tequila trend in Australia
Until recently, the tequila category has experienced steady but unremarkable growth in Australia. However insights from Dan Murphy’s show premium tequila sales have doubled in the last 12 months, with Rita Ora’s Próspero Tequila is leading the drinks trend.
Ora partnered with Mexico’s most respected female master distiller Stella Anguiano in 2019 to create Próspero Tequila and the hand-crafted spirits range has already found a cult following among Aussie customers.
“I’m so excited that Australians are falling in love with Próspero and exploring the beauty of hand-crafted, premium tequila,” the singer said.
While she has been a fan of tequila for years, she never expected to have her own brand.
“I hadn’t really thought about doing a drinks collaboration,” she explained. “That was before I met Stella in Mexico. We had a real connection and I felt inspired by her passion. Her family has been making tequila for years and she really felt it was important to branch out on her own and make name for herself. I was so moved by her story and connecting with her really solidified my desire to do this collaboration.”
The Voice Australia coach said she has been very involved in creative aspects of the brand, which is hand-crafted at Próspero’s distillery in the heart of Tequila, Mexico.
“Being Chief Creative Partner and shareholder has allowed me to invest my time and energy into Próspero, which at its core highlights strong independent women,” she added. “For me, this is more than a spirit, it’s about giving female distillers like Stella a platform.”
Anguiano echoed Ora’s sentiment: “Behind every successful family is a strong woman who serves as the heart and backbone. Próspero is a tequila that celebrates that. I’m proud to be collaborating on a spirit brand made by women that everyone can enjoy.”
Próspero Tequila was soft-launched onto the Australian market in August 2020, with bottles of the premium spirit flying off the shelves of Dan Murphy’s and BWS since then.
“We are seeing a new era of tequila globally and Australia is right on the trend with premium tequila one of our fastest growing drinks categories,” said Dan Murphy’s Category Manager Trading – Spirits & Premix James Duvnjak. “Tequila is no longer just for shots, but for sipping like a fine whisky or creating a personal twist on a cocktail.”
The Rock blitzes the premium tequila category
It doesn’t hurt that celebrities have huge social media followings to recruit when they launch their tequila brands.
The Rock – who has more than 58 million followers on Facebook alone – introduced his tequila brand, Teramana, in March 2020 and revealed in December that it was on track to sell 300,000 cases in its first 12 months.
“We have been blown away by the response from consumers, bartenders and retailers,” Jenna Fagnan, co‐founder of Teremana Tequila, told The Spirits Business. “We launched at the end of March 2020, right in the midst of shutdowns so we decided to do a quieter soft launch. However, with consumers at home engaging on social media and a new interest in at‐home cocktail making, the consumer was looking for brands that brought them great quality and value, and brands that they could trust.”
“Dwayne is the real deal. He has been talking about Tequila for years, and the consumer saw the process along the way. This was not a fast‐to‐market product, but one worked on over time and done the right way. We partnered with one of the few remaining family‐owned distilleries in the highlands of Jalisco, and built our own distillery next to their larger one. This way we can ensure Teremana is crafted to our specific high‐quality standards and at the same time lean on the logistics and knowledge of a larger distillery, and collaborate with a family that is in this for the long term together with us.”
The Rock also introduced a “Guac on the Rock” initiative this week, to encourage people around the US to go and support their local restaurants. From May 1-5, Teremana is reimbursing restaurant goers for their guacamole, up to the value of $1,000,000 worth, when they purchase it with any Teremana Tequila cocktail.
“No better way to celebrate my 397th birthday, than with all of us helping our favorite local restaurants get back on their feet, all while drinking some Teremana and enjoying our favourite guacamole,” he said. “I want to help get people safely back into our restaurants, bars and hotels. This is an industry close to my heart and one who normally gives all of us so much support year-round. These people need our help and support to get back in business. Let’s go help them out, enjoy some amazing drinks and food and say thank you for all they do. And let everyone know that The Guac’s on The Rock!”
Not everyone is a fan of the trend. The Robb Report notes: “Some of the celebrity tequila is actually pretty good – Lobos 1707 and Casa Mexico among them – but this newfound attention from stars is far from an unalloyed good for the category.
“The sheen of celebrity can divert attention from how the tequila is actually produced and overshadow smaller brands that are making really good products. And there’s a fine line between homage and appropriation. Some stars have got into tequila more because they’re hopping on a trend, and less out of respect for the the spirit itself. Hailing from Jalisco isn’t a prerequisite to backing a tequila, but endorsing it—or any spirit—should accompany a solid grasp of its cultural importance and production methods.”
However, Stephen Rannekleiv, global beverages sector strategist at Rabobank, told The Spirits Business that the credibility of stars such as Johnson and Clooney has created “a positive halo for the category”.
“George Clooney is the most obvious one, and when you think about him you don’t see him in a nightclub dancing on top of tables,” he said. “It’s more about enjoying life and enjoying good products. This is a very positive association that is also a way to demonstrate that Tequila is more sophisticated than maybe some people would think.”
Regardless of the critics, celebrity tequila is here to stay and, as The Robb Report concludes: “The hope is that the celebs with enough clout to get a tequila made will use their same power and influence to make sure it’s done well.”